It’s a hot Tuesday afternoon and Ahmad Khan* has parked his cab outside a shopping mall in Noida. Usually, afternoons mean few bookings and a power nap in the car. But a new kind of “worry” is not letting him sleep.
It was Monday when one of his fellow drivers told Khan about “that thing”.
“I just heard that someone had posted on the internet that we shouldn’t book cabs driven by Muslim drivers and pay them money…What can one do? These are tough times,” Khan says.
The story Khan heard from his driver colleague is slightly different than the real one though.
On Friday, Abhishek Mishra, a social media advisor of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) cancelled an Ola cab booking, owing to the Muslim identity of the driver. Mishra, who’s followed by BJP Union ministers like Nirmala Sitharaman and Dharmendra Pradhan on Twitter, had then tweeted a screenshot of his cancelled ride, stating he didn’t want to give his money to “Jihadi people.”
The tweet had triggered a furore on social media with a large number of users calling out Mishra for his comments.
According to Khan, it’s not uncommon for riders to cancel bookings if the driver has a Muslim name.
“Though we can’t know the real reason behind a cancellation, you finally get an idea why the customer is cancelling again and again,” Khan, who has been working as a cab driver in Delhi for the past 12 years, tells InUth.
Similar concerns are voiced by Javed Ali*, a cab driver in Delhi since last three years.
“If mine is the only available cab in an area and the customer cancels it, the app-based system sends the second booking request from the same customer to the same nearest cab. But when the customer repeatedly cancels it, you get a feeling that maybe the customer is not comfortable in riding with a Muslim driver,” Ali, who works with a prominent app-based cab service, tells InUth
On the other hand, a normal ride doesn’t always guarantee sensitive behaviour from the customer.
During his decade or so as a cab driver in Delhi, Khan has only listened to the conversations his customers have among themselves. Rarely does he open up or share his feelings with a passenger.
“But I remember everything…At times there are customers who chat among themselves and say all the wrong things about Muslims. Most of the times, they try to link Muslims with terrorists, I usually ignore them. Sometimes, I feel many of them do it consciously since they already know my name,” Khan tells InUth
Why not counter them?
Khan knows the cost if he responds to a passenger’s communally insensitive remarks. A four-year old incident comes to his mind.
“I picked up two men from South Delhi and they were repeatedly discussing terrorism and Muslims etc. At one point, I intervened indirectly and told them to change the topic of their conversation. They asked me to stop the car and got down. They told me: ‘we don’t want to ride with you.'”
However, Khan makes it clear “not all are same.”
Ola, like our country, is a secular platform, and we don’t discriminate our driver partners or customers basis their caste, religion, gender or creed. We urge all our customers and driver partners to treat each other with respect at all times.
— Ola (@Olacabs) April 22, 2018
“Not all the fingers in a hand are same…Allah pe bharosa hai,” Khan, waiting for his next booking, remarks.
Ashraf, a 23-year-old driver from Alwar, who has been in this profession for the past three years, echoes the sentiment. “I have never faced such an issue. It’s also about the way you look at things. We can’t let this things affect us,” he says.
* Name changed